Hundreds of El Pasoans gathered Thursday to pay tribute to El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen, who was remembered as a passionate leader with a direct approach.

The remembrance ceremony at the Judson F. Williams Convention Center began two days of honors for Allen following his unexpected death Jan. 17 after a medical procedure. Allen, 71, was the first African American police chief in El Paso.

City Manager Tommy Gonzalez said that when he met Allen in 2014, he was impressed by the chief’s direct approach to discussing the needs of the Police Department. He said over the years they were able to address issues such as aging police equipment and hiring more officers.

“Greg leaves a legacy of tireless and unselfish public service, inspiring us all to follow his lifelong example of dedication, passion, and true engagement,” Gonzalez said.

An emotional Gonzalez said Allen used to end their conversations with “bye for now” and he regretted never asking what he meant.

“Today I know what he meant, because we will see him again,” Gonzalez said.

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El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen’s body is brought into the Judson F. Williams Convention Center for a memorial service on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. (Elida S. Perez/El Paso Matters)

Allen led the department for nearly 15 years, the longest tenure for a police chief in the city’s history.

His funeral and burial will take place Friday morning. He is survived by his wife, Rosanne Allen, two sons, two daughters and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.

A graduate of Bel Air High School, Allen joined the Police Department in 1978 and rose through the ranks. He served as deputy chief and assistant chief under then-Police Chief Richard Wiles before being named chief in 2008.

“I know that our city will continue to be well protected,” said Mayor Oscar Leeser, thanking the community, police officers and assistant chiefs of police. “Chief, we will always miss you and we love you.”

Police officers and other mourners listen as local public officials eulogize deceased police chief Greg Allen. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Thursday’s memorial service included the martial arts community. Allen was a martial artist and in 1995 was inducted into the El Paso Boxing and Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

Rosanne Allen said her husband had a passion for martial arts, which he practiced for 59 years.

“When we first married he showed me this gi (martial arts uniform) in plastic and he kept it in our bottom drawer,” she said. “He asked that if at any time he didn’t make it home from work that I should make sure that he’s buried with this because martial arts gave him the life lessons of discipline and dedication that made him successful.”

The memorial service ended with a ceremonial martial arts dance for fallen warriors.

Elida S. Perez is a senior reporter for El Paso Matters. Her experience includes work as city government watchdog reporter for the El Paso Times, investigative reporter for El Paso Newspaper Tree and communities...